Global commercial air traffic tracked by Flightradar24 decreased 4.3% in February compared to 2019. The number of commercial passenger and cargo flights tracked by Flightradar24 dropped even as the total number of flights tracked increased 7%, led by an increase in tracking non-scheduled traffic.
Commercial air traffic down 4.3% in February 2020
The year over year decline comes as airlines cancel flights and reduce service frequencies in response to the spread of the novel coronavirus. In February 2019, we tracked 2,983,575 commercial flights (out of 4,687,711 total flights). In February 2020, commercial flights tracked fell to 2,855,335 (out of 5,026,972 total).
Commercial traffic includes scheduled passenger or cargo flights operated by an airline. Excluded here are non-scheduled private flights, general aviation, gliders, and balloons.
The largest drop in traffic occurred in China where the average number of daily departures from China’s 25 busiest airports fell from around 10,000 in early January to fewer than 2000 in last two weeks of February. Air traffic at China’s 25 busiest airports is down over 80% since the beginning of the year. The major decline in commercial traffic began during the third week of January and accelerated in to February before making a modest recovery toward the end of the month.
Global tracking trends
Looking at global tracking over the past four years, February 2020’s lower growth in traffic immediately stands out.
While still above last year’s levels, the total of flights tracked in 2020 is well below our initial forecast. As airlines cut capacity into March, the total number of flights tracked will likely grow at a depressed rate compared to previous years.